When it comes to dementia, its diagnosis comes through the detection of warning signs and spotting symptoms, such as memory loss, unexpected changes in behaviour, and increased confusion. Identifying these often extremely subtle changes can be crucial to receiving the right support and preventing a decline in the condition. Remote monitoring technology has a vital role to play here in helping to detect those sometimes nearly invisible indications, often imperceptible to carers and loved ones. It’s important to fully grast the significant link between dementia and technology
Dementia and Alzheimers – What are the warning signs? What contributes to a diagnosis?
Dementia, a condition which can consist of a variety of symptoms, manifesting in different ways, can strongly vary from person to person. In the UK, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. As a progressive condition, dementia’s symptoms get worse over time if not detected and treated – some of the most common symptoms include:
- memory loss
- confusion and needing help with daily tasks
- problems with language and understanding
- changes in behaviour.
Most commonly, warning signs of dementia can begin to be shown through changes in behaviour. Physical inactivity, problems recalling recent events, difficulty concentrating, planning, and organising, which can be exhibited through difficulty or forgetfulness to complete simple tasks, such as cooking a meal.
Alongside physical difficulties, dementia also becomes a mental obstruction, leaving people confused with times, dates, and places, mood changes and difficulties controlling emotions, which could lead to overwhelming anxiety and distress.
Daily activities of living such as personal hygiene and bathroom use, eating and drinking healthily and regularly, closing doors and turning off appliances and taps, keeping track of medication, and spending time with loved ones, can all become difficult for someone suffering from dementia, and can put their overall health at further risk if the right support isn’t there.
How does dementia become a threat to one’s wellbeing?
Loss of balance – People with dementia can suffer a decline in motor abilities, which increases their risk of falls and injuries, while it also makes physical activity a challenge, decreasing their overall movement and activity around the home.
Temperature insensitivity – Forgetfulness, in combination with sensory confusion, can lead to people leaving the heating on, or leaving windows open, so any abnormal fluctuations in temperature can go unnoticed by someone with dementia. This can be very dangerous to their wellbeing if it goes unnoticed in time.
Poor hydration and eating habits – forgetting meal times and forgetting to stay hydrated during the day, or thinking that they have eaten and drank but they actually have not. This can develop into serious threats to health.
Poor hygiene and bathroom use – forgetting to go to the bathroom, forgetting to bathe regularly, brush teeth etc. This can result in further risks and complications to health.
Danger in the home of leaving appliances on, and doors open – this can raise the energy bill! And also it can be dangerous for the service user if they forget to close doors or leave their heating or electric appliance on all night when it is not being used.
Difficulties and blockers in spotting dementia signs in a traditional care setting
In a traditional care setting, there are often difficulties spotting dementia symptoms and catching dementia onset early on because of numerous reasons. It also makes it difficult to manage care for dementia because of certain aspects of the care service and the relationships between key stakeholders in someone’s care circle.
People don’t always realise that they have dementia or losing memories
Often people don’t realise they have dementia symptoms, and that they are starting to suffer from the symptoms. Small moments of forgetfulness can be overlooked individually and by loved ones, and if not tracked it can often not be diagnosed correctly early on.
Sometimes people lie or show desirable behaviour to avoid a diagnosis
People in care may still show desirable behaviour to avoid diagnosis during assessments, and there is a lack of evidence to show an increase in the frequency of symptoms.
Family members intervene (misunderstanding? Fearing? misinterpreting?) diagnosis
It’s very common that family members may become worried about their loved one losing their independence, sometimes alongside disbelieving the seriousness of the issue. This and the fear of their loved one being suddenly thrust into a high-care environment following a diagnosis may cause them to intervene and oppose the diagnosis to prevent this from happening.
Carers may not spot dementia signs due to the speed of visits and time constraints
Given the speed and time pressures on carers to conduct in-person visits and assessments, they may not have the mind space and time to fully spot dementia symptoms, signs, or patterns pointing towards a timely dementia diagnosis. This leads to thousands being untreated early on, which could cause the condition to progress more rapidly down the line.
Does tech have a place in dementia care, if so how? How can tech help with diagnoses and warning signs?
In care settings, spotting dementia is difficult especially when carers and family and friends don’t have a holistic understanding of a service user’s behaviour available. What this highlights is that knowing how someone in care is carrying out their daily activities, can provide a greater layer of information from which to correctly diagnose dementia and catch it early on allowing for the correct treatment and care plans in place at an earlier stage. This reduces the risk to health, protects the service user’s independence and dignity, and can allow them to continue to live more independently knowing that they are being looked after round-the-clock.
Lilli’s remote monitoring solution uses soft behavioural signs using small discreet sensors placed around the home to track movement, door opens, temperature and electrical usage for key appliances such as microwaves or kettles. These data points are collected and analysed by Lilli’s software, which can create a pattern of what is considered ‘normal behaviour’ uniquely specific to each service user, and therefore can spot if someone is not behaving normally i.e. not moving around as much, or getting out of bed more, and can then notify carers that this is unexpected. Often, these unexpected behaviours are early warning signs of a decline and risk to health, and by having this early insight carers can make timely, potentially life-saving, interventions as and when needed. Using Lilli’s data, carers can also better tailor care packages to the specific needs of their service users, by being able to understand how they are in their home on a day to day.
This is especially important when it comes to dementia diagnosis and management, as monitoring daily patterns of living can show whether someone is forgetting to do simple tasks such as hygiene through bathroom visits, if they are remembering to have their meals, or if they are leaving their main doors open. Data from Lilli’s software can be cross-referenced with the carers’ expertise and knowledge from in-person visits. The result is that carers have greater evidence available to support with earlier dementia diagnosis, and can help them arrange the correct support to help manage the service user correctly and reduce the risks to health. Having evidence on hand can also help provide reassurance to family members that the right and best decisions are being made for their loved one’s health.
How can tech help with living with dementia and support people & carers in the long term?
The long-term future of dementia care needs to incorporate technology within the diagnosis and care pathways. Remote monitoring technology is especially of value to dementia sufferers, carers, and family and friends of loved ones with dementia. It can help protect and provide a level of independence for people living with dementia, as they can have greater reassurance that they are being looked after round-the-clock. It can also provide them with direct evidence of their health being impacted by dementia, so that they can feel like they understand their situation better.
Carers can benefit greatly from remote monitoring technology when it comes to dementia care, as evidence of daily activities being impacted can provide direct evidence for a timely dementia diagnosis. The evidence provided by monitoring technology can support carers with future care decisions as well, and gives them confidence to provide the best level of care to meet the specific needs of service users suffering from dementia require. The data provided also can provide reassurance to family and friends that the correct diagnosis and care package is being provided, and gives evidence for any care decisions made with their loved ones’ health as the primary goal. Remote monitoring technology can help support the earlier diagnosis of dementia, help with spotting warning signs and support carers with the evidence to provide the best care outcomes for service users with dementia.
To find out more about Dementia Action Week 2023, and more information on how you can get involved to continue to raise awareness around dementia, visit